The astrology of 2016 provides us with ample opportunities to create a more authentic, less fear-driven version of ourselves and the world. The most important tool we have this year is our presence. Being present simply means allowing yourself to regard what is actually happening, to slip easily out of our ideas like slipping out of our clothes at the end of the day. Often, what we think is absolute, true, and permanent is only a transient state. When viewing events – whether personal or global in nature – do not let yourself be trapped by appearances. Go deeper and see what is actually true beyond all the soundbites, emotions, and images.
After the radical revolutions and extreme transformations of the past few years, we are learning exactly how deep is our collective capacity for wide-ranging, long-lasting change. The positive, profound movements we’ve witnessed since 2011 – such as #BlackLivesMatter and Occupy Wall Street – are only the most dramatic examples of how humanity is evolving. There are examples of backlash as well, but keep reminding yourself and one another of the beautiful visions that are drawing forth our courage and strength in these times. Remember – go deeper. Do not be satisfied with memes or slogans. Even if you agree with what is being said, perhaps even especially then, sink past the words into the meaning, beyond the opinions into the vision. Ask yourself, Is this a dream worth dreaming? Is this a spell of fear or love?
REVISITING THE UNDERWORLD: Mars retrograde
If you know the story of Persephone, this could be a useful model for us from February through August. In the story, Persephone must separate from her mother Demeter and undertake an arduous journey to find her true nature as Queen of the Underworld. The journey includes grief, loss, fear, disorientation, secrecy, separation – and even kidnapping and rape in some versions. Eventually, Persephone returns to the living, but she must balance out her time, spending six months in the Underworld with her husband Hades, and six months above with her mother.
During the six months I mentioned above, we will be in a period defined by Mars’ retrograde cycle, and it will be like Persephone returning to the Underworld for her six-month stint as Queen. It’s not her first time there, and she’s got a lot of experience being in the darkness there – but it’s still the Underworld.
Whenever Mars is retrograde, which happens every two years, we are invited to reconsider how we use our personal power to get what we want. Mars is the planet of assertiveness, desire, strength, courage, and aggression. Wherever it is in our natal charts shows us what we are here to fight for and how we tackle the struggles of life. When retrograde, the energy of anger and power will be drawn internally or misdirected externally. Internalized Mars can bring on depression, which is a useful tool for self-reflection as long as we don’t drown in it.
Mars will retrograde on April 17 at 9 degrees Sagittarius, moving back into Scorpio on May 28 until June 29, when the planet will begin moving forward again at 23 degrees Scorpio. This means that Mars will be in the sign of Scorpio for 131 days or over 18 weeks, and will not re-enter Sagittarius until August 2.
The points Mars is activating in the zodiac are especially sensitive, as the planet Saturn most recently traversed the same terrain. This means that the very personal, very raw, very intense work around intimacy, vulnerability, and healing from trauma, which we’ve been doing over the past three years will be triggered this spring and early summer. It may be helpful to look back over the past six months (June-November) to see most clearly what experiences define this transit for you.
Let me be totally honest: this could be a time when some people feel as though they are being re-traumatized by the past, when situations that seemed resolved get off the mat for another round. For others, it could be a time of realizing that those old wounds are finally healed. In either scenario, we need to have in place ways to RELEASE the pent-up, agitating, enflaming energy of Mars in positive, healthy, creative ways. What have proven to be good tension-releasing activities in the past? Plan on making some time for this especially from April through June.
It’s a bit like this: After three long years, you received your Master’s degree in “Understanding the Interplay between Emotional Vulnerability and Setting Boundaries.” Now, it’s time to test all your sound academic work in the real world. If it sounds a bit horrifying, well, it may be. It certainly won’t be a cake walk. But for many, it may be a time of intensely powerful releases of fear, trauma, and emotional wounding that helps them feel truly free for the first time in their lives.
THE ILLUMINATING ART OF DETACHMENT: Mercury, Neptune, and Saturn
Mercury Retrograde happens four times in 2016, which is unusual. It’s a like a free gift with purchase since the Neptune-Saturn square will have us also experiencing shades of confusion, obstruction, and trickiness all year long! The key to both of these events is detachment, which allows us to be present to what is actually happening rather than stuck in our beliefs, prejudices, and illusions about life. As meditation teacher Lisa Erickson writes:
Practicing detachment involves finding the observer in our own mind – the part of our awareness that can pull back and see that the mental busyness or emotional swings that we often experience are only one part of our awareness, and therefore only part of who we are. By developing detachment, we can begin to recognize the transience of this level of our awareness – that each of our thoughts and emotions have a beginning and an end, and that our attachment to them is the root of our suffering.
Remember that when Mercury is retrograde, we are encouraged to slow down and reflect thoughtfully on all energy exchanges. This year, the God of Communication and Commerce goes backwards in Earth Signs. Earth holds the energy of pragmatism, and rules resources, health, and the physical world. Mercury will be retrograde in the following signs and dates: Capricorn, January 5-25; Taurus, April 28-May 22; Virgo, August 30-September 21; Capricorn, December 19-January 8. This year will be a lovely opportunity to practice detachment. Please understand that this doesn’t mean the absence of pleasure or joy, quite the opposite. It means we can be free of the illusions of what we think we need and who we think we are, instead finding a more accurate, truthful perception.
Adding to this lesson, Neptune is currently moving through the sign of Pisces, forming a tense relationship with Saturn as it moves through Sagittarius. Saturn and Neptune already hold very different qualities from one another; Neptune is about vision, fantasy, illusion, and image while Saturn rules structures, limitation, reality, and form.
When these two planets meet, it can feel like our world is coming apart at the seams. The fantasies we have held about ourselves, our relationships, and our world, crash into reality – and we are left to figure out what’s actual and what’s pure delusion.
If the tension can be utilized creatively, we may find positive manifestations of our deepest visions. The dissonance between form (Saturn) and image (Neptune), forces a confrontation that many artists use to create great beauty and to reveal profound truths.
With both the Mercury Retrogrades and the Neptune-Saturn square, you are invited to diminish attachments and re-engage your imagination in order to create a newer, more authentic version of yourself. This requires that you soften the edges of your identity. There are often activities, relationships, as well as ideas, that we continue to participate in but which are no longer appropriate for who we’ve become. Who do you think you are? Who are you? Who are you really? Keep asking the questions and don’t be too ready to accept the answers.
HEALTHY, WEALTHY AND WISE: Jupiter and the Eclipses
Jupiter in Virgo continues to offer us opportunities to find the abundance of simplicity and to discern what makes life worth living. As it forms a trine with Pluto in Capricorn, the invitation is to contemplate the sources and beliefs you have about wealth. This is a positive trine, but with Pluto, the planet of deep transformation, nothing is as it seems on the surface.
Consider where your wealth comes from and how you use it in service to your life purpose. Most definitions of wealth deal with material resources, money, and physical possessions. But in a time when capitalism’s use of Earth’s resources has become fatal, isn’t it vital that we create new definitions and sources of wealth? What about the wealth of community organizing, of family relations, of creative problem-solving?
Issues of health, physical and emotional healing, spiritual practice, and daily rituals are also highlighted by the Jupiter transit throughout the year and the eclipse points in March and September. We sometimes think that we have to be totally healed before we can help others, or that the healing of the world takes precedence over our own personal well-being. Both of these views rely on dualistic thinking which holds that we are separate, disparate parts acting autonomously from one another. Spiritual activist Joanna Macy holds a different view, based on the most ancient spiritual wisdom and the most recent scientific observations. In her piece, “The Holonic Shift and How to Take Part in It,” she writes:
All living systems--be they organic like a cell or human body, or supra-organic like a society or ecosystem--are holons. That means they have a dual nature: As both systems and subsystems, they are wholes in themselves and, simultaneously, integral parts of larger wholes…
Know that only the whole can repair itself. You cannot "fix" the world, but you can take part in its self-healing. Healing wounded relationships within you and between you is integral to the healing of our world.
You are only a small part of a much larger process, like a nerve cell in a neural net. So learn trust. Trust means taking part and taking risks, when you cannot control, or even see, the outcome.
The first round of eclipses for 2016 takes place in March and amplifies these questions. On March 8, the Solar Eclipse–New Moon occurs at 18 Pisces which opposes Jupiter at 18 Virgo. Astrologer Moses Siregar calls the Virgo-Pisces polarity the “Axis of Enlightened Service” and highlights the pairings need to develop self-love as the means to “open up the floodgates of compassion.”
On the day of the Solar Eclipse, find out where 18 degrees Pisces is in your chart in order to see where lessons in self-love are occurring and to discover new sources and definitions of wealth. The Lunar Eclipse–Full Moon takes place on March 23 at 3 degrees Libra, and expands awareness in relationship dynamics and the search for beauty in the outer world. This lunar eclipse will also bring forth a confrontation with the shadow – anything we’ve been avoiding or actively repressing.
In September, the eclipses stay in the signs of Virgo and Pisces, emphasizing the themes of compassion for self and others, service, imagination, organization, activism that is spiritual and/or practical. On September 1, the Solar Eclipse – New Moon occurs at 9 degrees Virgo, with the Lunar Eclipse – Full Moon at 24 degrees Pisces on September 16. Virgo and Pisces tells us that the “devil is in the details” and that God is everywhere, that we are simultaneously of the Earth and Spiritual Beings.
The Life of the Imagination
For those of you so inclined, may I suggest a few activities to put you in physical-emotional-spiritual-intellectual alignment with the energies of 2016?
Train yourself in the practice and discipline of imagination
Read a poem a day ● Dance for a minute a day ● Watch thoughtful, contemplative, image-laden movies ● Visit museums and galleries, or check out art books from your local library ● Meditate ● Dream and write down your dreams ● Make collages, paint, draw, color, doodle ● Drink herbal tea and look out the window ● Practice mindfulness and being present ● Cook simple meals that feel delightfully nourishing ● Stretch your body ● Sleep ● Move your body for a purpose, such as building something or cleaning litter from a forest ● Take pictures of what is beautiful to you ● Take time each and every day to imagine the world you want to live in
Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus: Part Two, Sonnet XIII
Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened.
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.
Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praying as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.
Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be.
The non-being inside you allows you to vibrate
in full resonance with your world. Use it for once.
To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.